ST. Paul, Minn. – Minnesota law enforcement will now be mandated to take a minimum amount of crisis prevention training. It is part of a new law passed in the legislature and signed by the governor.
"The legislature and ultimately the governor signing this bill into law is a game changer for Minnesota law enforcement,” said Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell.
The training must be provided beginning of July 1, 2018 and will require law enforcement have a minimum of 16 hours of training every three years on three areas -- responding to a mental health crisis, de-escalation of conflicts and diversity and implicit bias training.
The state will give law enforcement $6 million every year for the next four yours to do the training.
Many departments already do at least some of the crisis prevention training, including Maplewood, but now other smaller departments in Greater Minnesota will be able to as well.
“This levels the playing field for access to this critical training across the state,” he said. “Five years from now we're going to look back and say that was a major shift in our response to these types of calls."
The Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training, also known as POST, will administer the money and make sure departments are adhering to the law.
"The money that will be starting in August of 2018 will actually triple the amount money available,” said POST Executive Director Nate Gove.
He says it won't be fully implemented for 5 years in large part it will take time to get smaller departments up to speed.
"That's the reason for the incremental implementation so we get it right,” he said.
Sue Abderholden is the executive director National Alliance on Mental Illness in Minnesota. While she understands the logistical challenges, she believes it “could move a little bit more quickly”.
That said, even though most people who suffer from mental illness are not violent, she believes it’s a great step forward from escalating a situation.
“What we’ve heard from officers soon after they’ve had this training is they’ve used it,” she said.
But Abderholden was disappointed the law didn't require a specific amount of hours for mental health and de-escalation training. Instead it's left up to police departments to divvy up the hours.
“We would like to see at least 8 hours be on mental illness and de-escalation,” she said.
But she and others believe the training will help save lives.
"My hope is because of this training it will prevent future tragedies,” she said.
“I believe and we believe this training will go a long way to minimizing that risk,” added Schnell.